A few hours later…
James, Oscar and Lewis were sitting at a table, in Dordol’s biggest bar. They had arrived only five minutes earlier and already set up sleeping arrangements at a nearby hotel. Dordol was known for being a very hospitable town, and it helped that the Brothers Brave were household names.
Their adventures had already spread across the whole kingdom, capturing the imaginations of the populace. After all, they only stolepies, which were not all that popular a delicacy in the kingdom. But for the King, who adored them, it was the height of criminality to rob food shipments of onlythisparticular dessert. In spite of this, though, the trio was already being lauded as daring, swashbuckling rogues, and was quite popular with the females of any species.
This was especially true tonight, as the moment the Brothers Brave had entered the bar, the ladies there had instantly begun to chatter amongst themselves excitedly. Now, as the three drank their milk, one of the females, an alluring-looking white-tailed fox, walked up to their table. She deliberately swayed her body as she approached, and leaned her body over the table, her snout inches from James’s face as she whispered, “Hi, handsome. You liking that milk?”
James looked at her, and sighed, nervously adjusting his bandanna. He muttered, “Ma’am, I’m very tired—”
This was clearly the wrong choice of words, as the fox quickly said excitedly, “You are? Great! I can show you a great place to rest…if you’d like…”
Oscar let out a slight cough, and the fox turned to him. He said, “I think he’s trying to say, ‘buzz off.’ No offense, ma’am…”
“Is that what you’re trying to say too?” said the fox, winking at Oscar, who smirked.
“Not at all. But as it happens, I’m pretty out of it myself. Try Lewis; he always has energy.”
Lewis gagged on his milk, and coughed out, “W-What?”
The fox took Oscar’s advice, and moved toward Lewis, who looked deeply uncomfortable. She whispered, “I like big animals. They’re so…cuddly.”
Lewis chuckled in a horribly fake way, as he mumbled, “Uh, yeah, sure, um, right, uh…I’m not feeling too well, to be honest. Don’t want you to catch anything, you know?”
The fox’s expression turned exasperated, as she finally seemed to get the hint. She sighed, and said, “Well, if any of you fellas need a good time, I’ll be waiting over there. The name’s Charlotte” She turned and walked back to the table where her other animal friends had been watching, and upon sitting down she immediately began whispering intently to them.
James twirled his whiskers with a finger, as he tiredly said, “Foxes. They’re always trying to get under our fur…”
“To be honest, Jim,” said Oscar, “I don’t get why you simply don’t take them up on their offers sometime.”
Oscar scowled. “You know me, brother. I’m not the lover type.You, however, could use a little excitement every now and then. You’re always spending your energy trying to be the goody-two-shoes of our band when you could be using it in the barn.”
James rolled his eyes. “I just keep you two from doing stupid things, that’s all. Without me, you and Lewis would be running around the kingdom, doing more than just steal pies.”
Lewis interjected, “I like to think of myself as agentlemanlybandit, I’ll have you know…”
Oscar stopped in mid-sip to say, “Lewis, you can’t even talk to a lady without turning into a blubbering moron, as seen earlier.” His voice filled with sarcasm, he added, “That’svery gentlemanly, indeed…”
Lewis cried out, “Hey, at leastImake an effort. Can you say the same, Oscar? All you ever do is scowl and look bitter. Granted, if I’d gottenmytail chopped off by a giant sadistic spider, I’d be mentally scarred too, but—”
James interrupted, “Guys, just drink your drinks and then we can go to bed. I wasn’t lying when I told that fox I was tired…”
Suddenly the door to the building creaked open, and an animal at the bar let out a scream. James immediately turned his head toward the entrance, and saw a black rabbit, his chest bleeding heavily, stumble over the threshold and collapse. James leapt to his feet, rushing over to the injured animal, as the other critters in the bar gathered around them, talking loudly to each other and pointing. James shouted at them, “Someone get a doctor!” He then said to the rabbit, “What happened? Who did this to you?”
The rabbit locked eyes with him, and gargled out, “Please…someone has to save her…”
In a voice quieter than a whisper, the rabbit rasped out, “Agatha Cattington. She’s been…taken…by Randall.”
James’s mouth dropped open, and behind him, Oscar and Lewis broke through the crowd. Oscar shouted, over the chatter of the other animals, “What did he say?”
James felt his heartbeat quicken, and his fur bristled. He gripped the shoulders of the rabbit, and snarled, “How long ago? Where is he taking her?”
“He came…and took her…only a few hours ago. I tried to protect her, but…” Tears dripped from the animal’s eyes, as he gasped out, “I failed. I couldn’t save her.” He was breathing heavily, and continued, “He said he had a master. He took her in a carriage…and left. I don’t know where…”
Lewis and Oscar bent down beside James, and Lewis inquired, “What’s he saying? Who was taken?”
The rabbit’s eyes suddenly grew massive, as he looked at all three cats, and blurted, “It’s you. You’re the Brothers Brave.” He let out a raspy chuckle, and muttered, “I’ve always wanted…to meet you three. She always…talked about you…” He then clutched onto James’s paws, and looked him straight in the eye. “Save her. Save her, please… And tell her…I’m sorry…”
The rabbit’s eyes suddenly glazed over, and a final breath escaped him, as he went limp, his paws slipping out of James’s. Oscar stood up, and yelled, “Where’s that damned doctor, people? Come on!” James couldn’t take his eyes off of the rabbit, and Lewis whispered to him, barely audible over the horrified shouts and cries of the bar’s residents, “Who is the lady? What did he mean, ‘she always talks about us?’ Do we know her?”
James trembled, anger rapidly shredding his composure to shreds, and he said, in a broken voice, “It’s Mother. Randall’s taken her.”